Moths of North Carolina
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17 NC Records

Mompha circumscriptella (Zeller, 1873) - Circumscript Mompha Moth

Superfamily: Gelechioidea Family: MomphidaeSubfamily: MomphinaeTribe: [Momphini]P3 Number: 421823.00 MONA Number: 1434.00
Comments: The genus Mompha consists of around 46 described species in North America. In addition, numerous species remain to be described that are centered in the southwestern US (Bruzzese et al., 2019). The adults are small moths that have two or more tufts of raised scales on each forewing. The larvae either mine leaves, or bore into the stems, flower buds, flowers, or fruits of their hosts. The majority of species feed on members of the Onagraceae, but others feed on species in the Cistaceae, Lythraceae, Melastomataceae, and Rubiaceae.
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, iNaturalist, Google, BAMONA, GBIFTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1923)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Dickerson and Weiss (1920)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: This is a very small moth that has a distinctive white hourglass-like mark when a resting moth is viewed from above with its wings closed. The following detailed description is based primarily on that of Forbes (1923). The head, palp, thorax, and basal half of forewing are shiny white, while the antenna is brown to blackish. The outer half of the forewing is typically rusty-brown. Starting from the wing base, the brown costal edge widens into a brown triangular mark at one fourth the wing length. The brown coloration then becomes very narrow at the middle of the wing before expanding to fill most of the remainder of the wing. The remainder of the basal half of the forewing is white, except for a small black dot that is present near the inner margin across from the apex of the brown triangular mark. A white spot or short streak is present at three-fourths. It is often connects to a curved, white line that extends basally to connect to the larger white region near the middle of the wing. The curved line on some specimens may be incomplete or missing altogether. There are two small tufts of blackish scales where the curved white line connects to the larger white region, one near the inner margin and the second near the middle of the wing. The hindwing is grayish to grayish brown and the fringe on both wings is mostly gray. The legs are light brown with thin whitish bands on the tarsi. Both the size of the adults and the ground color of the forewing varies in Mompha circumscriptella, and is influenced by the particular species of evening-primrose that the larvae feed on ( The ground color can vary from rusty brown to chocolate brown or almost black, even though the genital morphology of all of these forms are identical and they appear to constitute a single species.
Wingspan: 9-12 mm (Forbes, 1923)
Structural photos
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: The larvae feed on evening-primrose seeds. After the females lay eggs on the outer fruit wall, the larva bores through the wall and feeds on the developing seeds. The full grown larvae are about 6 mm long and whitish with a dark brown head. In New Jersey the larvae are full grown by the last three weeks of August, at which point each larva spins a whitish, elongated cocoon within the capsule compartment where it has been feeding (Dickerson and Weiss, 1920). The cocoon is covered with reddish brown particles of excrement and is somewhat cigar-shaped. The larva attaches the upper end to the inner side of the outer wall and cuts a circular escape hole almost to the outside of the capsule. At emergence the pupa pushes through the cocoon towards the thin covering of the escape hole, where the adult emerge to the outside. The adults emerge during late summer or early fall, then overwinter and remain inactive until the breeding season arrives.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable only through rearing to adulthood.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Mompha circumscriptella is found in eastern North America and in the West in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and from British Columbia southward to California. In the East, populations occur in southern Canada (Manitoba; Ontario) and throughout most of the eastern US from Maine southward to southern Florida, then westward to central Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa. It appears to be absent or rare in most of the central and southern Appalachians. As of 2021, we have records from the Coastal Plain and Piedmont.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ≥ 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: Adults have been found from January through November in areas outside of North Carolina, with a seasonal peak in June and July when breeding is occurring. As of 2021, our records extend from late May through late September.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: The larvae feed on evening-primroses, particularly species that occur in sunny or partially sunny sites. Typical habitats include roadsides, old fields and meadows, powerline corridors, and the edges of agricultural fields.
Larval Host Plants: The larvae use Evening-primroses (Oethothera spp.) as hosts, including Common Evening-primrose (O. biennis) and Cutleaf Evening-primrose (O. laciniata).
Observation Methods: We recommend rearing adults from Oethothera fruits. The fruits do not show any externally-visible signs of infestation or damage, so the best strategy is to collect and cage entire clusters of fruits in mid- to late summer.
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR [SU]
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: This species is probably more common that our records suggest given that the adults are generally inactive except during the breeding season and many records are based on rearing the adults from seed capsules.

 Photo Gallery for Mompha circumscriptella - Circumscript Mompha Moth

Photos: 10

Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Steve Hall and Bo Sullivan on 2022-08-28
Moore Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka, Steve Hall and Bo Sullivan on 2022-08-28
Scotland Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Bo Sullivan on 2022-05-30
Moore Co.
Recorded by: R. Newman on 2021-11-21
Carteret Co.
Recorded by: Jim Petranka and Bo Sullivan on 2021-08-09
Moore Co.
Recorded by: Mark Shields on 2020-07-10
Onslow Co.
Recorded by: J.B. Sullivan on 2020-05-25
Carteret Co.
Recorded by: Gary Maness on 2020-03-27
Guilford Co.
Recorded by: J.B. Sullivan on 2019-08-28
Carteret Co.
Recorded by: T. DeSantis on 2012-03-01
Camden Co.